Wednesday, December 29, 2010

These Paperbacks, They Know Their Age...

Last night I stumbled upon a copy of Samuel Goodrich's

History of All Nations

A two-volume encyclopedia of the entire history of the entire world. And it was published in 1852.

I would have snatched those books up in a heartbeat if it weren't for the price. But that didn't stop me from snapping a few pictures of some of the best parts.

Obviously, my heritage was  paramount. And Mr. Goodrich, being a good Briton, did not disappoint:

"The Irish distill whiskey from a barley in their own cottages, where they elude the vigilance of  the local officers. What is thus illegally made is called potchen. This liquor was first known in Ireland by the name of usquebaugh (translates to: water or life). The use of it has been carried to great excess among the lower orders, who delight in all kinds of meetings which give them an opportunity of drinking together. To this propensity perhaps may be traced the custom of  waking the dead. Whenever a poor person dies, the neighbors assemble to drink, smoke, and lament the departure of the deceased. This is a very ancient custom, and is regarded so indispensable , that a laborer whose relative has died, and whose children are running about half naked, will spend a month's wages in whiskey and tobacco for the men and women who come to the wake, which is often continued for two or three days, and nights. The intemperance of the Irish has, however, been somewhat checked by the exertions of Father Matthew."

Of course, there is another famous Irish pastime:

"They are generally destitute of that sober and steady spirit of enterprise which distinguishes the English. The love of combat seems to be a general infirmary. The Irish do not fight single-handed, but in bands, and on a great scale. When an individual imagines himself insulted, he goes round to his companions, friends, and townsmen, and collects a multitude, who make a joint attack on the offending party. This is their practice also in America. The light frailties of the Irish are vanity, loquacity, a readiness to speak as well as to act without deliberation, and a hurry and confusion of ideas which so often lead them to that particular sort of blunder called a bull."

And of course, in all my jolliness, I had to find something that almost brought a tear to my eye due to its sadness:

Gaza - Lying on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, and at the southern extremity of Palestine, Gaza belonged to the Philistines, then to the Hebrews, then covered its liberties in the reigns of Jotham and [illegible], and was reconquered by Hezekiah. It was then subjected to the Chaldeans, who conquered Syria and Phonecia. They were masters of it when Alexander besieged, took, and destroyed it. Strabo says that "he rendered it a desert." He at least dismantled it. and another city, rose from its ruins, nearer to the sea.
It has since undergone many changes. The town stands three miles from the sea, and has an indefinite port. Its population is fifteen to sixteen thousand, and is engaged in part in the manufacture of cotton. Its position as a frontier town, the key of Palestine, serves its importance, and it is now the most populous of the cities of Palestine. A considerable number of Christians live here by themselves, in a particular part of the place. As Gaza stands on an eminence, it is considered picturesque by the number of fine minarets and spires, which rise majestically above the buildings."

Oh, the changes of 160 years...


  1. I have to agree. There is something about an old book that is simply intoxicating. The way in which individuals viewed the world or made sweeping generalizations about an entire people seems to continue across time.

    The description of Gaza is interesting... seems to contradict Mark Twain's statement of a land without a people for people without a land.

    Stoked for Istanbul man (even though it is quite a ways off)